Although “Illegal,” Airbnb Hosts In City Not Imminently Facing Bed Taxes

by Joseph Kissel

It’s certainly one of the nicest, best-maintained houses on 18th Street.

Inside, the meticulously clean house has been thoroughly updated while retaining the original architectural details that make this middle-class Niagara Falls home unique.

Part of what makes that home unique is the owner, an Airbnb “superhost” who’s been a part of the “sharing economy” for nearly two years.

“We’re not a hotel,” said the owner of the 18th street house. “We’re not a bed and breakfast. We’re hot a hostel. We are a sharing economy. It’s a different type of business model.”

Singles or couples who book online to stay in the single bedroom of this two-story home do so not just for a generally less-expensive room but also for the amenities of staying in a house and having a host willing to share the city with them.

“I encourage guests to go to local restaurants and shopping establishments in the city,” he said.

The good news for this “superhost” — meaning he gets the highest ratings from satisfied guests — and the approximately 300+ other Airbnb hosts in Niagara Falls is that there are no “bed tax” plans afoot to further sap their finances.

“I’m doing this to keep above water,” said the Airbnb “superhost,” who is not being identified to avoid potential legal issues. “If I had to start paying taxes, I might stop doing it.”

John Percy, head of the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp., said there are no immediate plans to lobby lawmakers to institute a “bed tax” on Airbnb hosts.

The bad news is that, according to Mike Kirsch of the Niagara County Health Department, these people are all operating “illegal bed and breakfasts.”

Recently, Niagara Falls councilwoman Kristen Grandinetti was forced to register the room she rents out through Airbnb as a bed and breakfast although she maintains it is not one.

Percy said he is soon going to be organizing a meeting of stakeholders in Niagara Falls’ hospitality sphere.

That now includes Airbnb hosts, he said.

“We are not opposed to Airbnb,” said Percy. “It’s a new way of life, and its a new way of lodging and it’s taken off dramatically. We feel hotels need to follow strict regulations because it’s important that our visitors are protected.”

That extends to Airbnb hosts, which face almost no oversight other than user reviews.

However, Percy said he hasn’t heard any “horror stories” about Niagara Falls Airbnb hosts providing an unsafe lodging experience.

“I keep the place clean,” said our anonymous superhost. “I’m friendly with the guests. And I enjoy meeting people from all over the world.”

“It’s actually like an extended family.”

As Mike Hudson wrote last week in the Reporter: “Quite frankly, the Niagara Falls Reporter has to side with Grandinetti and the other Airbnb providers on this one. Property taxes in Niagara Falls are the highest based on value in the entire state of New York, and perhaps the entire country. In our view, a homeowner who occasionally rents a room in an attempt to offset this inequity deserves sympathy rather than finger pointing.”

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39 Comments

  1. It is important to remember the 4th amendment. Any official that comes knocking on your door does not have the right to enter with or without an official badge. The officials need a warrant and they cannot get a warrant without probable cause.
    Do NOT be intimidated, stand your ground.
    “Do you have a warrant?”
    “No but we can get one in 4 hours.”
    ” Then go get your quick check warrant and come back with it! Good bye and have a nice day!”
    Judges do not issue warrants in 4 hours. It takes days and paper work….lots of it! A judge will not issue a warrant without probable cause and running a B&B does not rank high up on the list of endangering the public. If that judge issues a warrant and something goes wrong, is he is going to have to answer for that? After years studying and practicing law do you think a judge might be sensitive about a possible violation of the constitution for something so frivolous as renting out rooms in a private house?

  2. anonymous says:

    I was just wondering if there will be community meetings on this subject. The when and where and time would be nice to know, as I would like to attend. Thanks so much for any info you have on the subject.

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  38. Air b n b’s are not good for residential. Air b n b should be illegal or at least heavily regulated. Greedy people buying residential houses and turning them onto hotels. We have had late nights with partiers waking us up for many weekends, stuff stolen… All from people that could care less about the community they are disrupting. Also my children have to bare witness to all of the craziness… I bought a house to have neighbors not to live next to a brothel/frat house/bachelorette party house/etc… Yeah we can call the police but next weekend it someone new and we have to deal with this all over again. Many air b n b’s are greedy no morals and do not care about the community they are destroying for their own greed, besides many owners live somewhere else and many are not even in the same city, so what do they care.

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